We didn’t know it at the time, but The Radio Dept. spoiled us through the aughts, bequeathing us with three LPs in seven years, starting with their 2003 debut Lesser Matters to their last Clinging to a Scheme in 2010. With a gauzy sound reminiscent of both ‘80s synthpop and ‘90s shoegaze, the Lund, Sweden based band’s music has from the beginning felt comfortably—and dangerously—familiar.
And so, while they’ve released various tracks since 2010, including a slew of singles, B-sides, and rarities, the six-year wait between proper albums has left fans curious and wanting. Thankfully, their latest album Running Out of Love continues the band’s sweet legacy, delivering a cohesive mix of smart, shimmery pop that stimulates both brain and body. As is The Radio Dept.’s style, their effortlessly nostalgic, extremely danceable vibe belies gritty commentary on current events—and, more fundamentally, human nature itself.
Setting the stage is album opener “Sloboda Narodu,” which avers the deflating claim, “There’s nothing gracious about our kind.” Although it seems harsh, its boldness is grounding and brave, even defiant (“They’ve got it wrong / No stars aligned.”), unfurling from call to reality to urgent call to action: “But don’t ask for patience / ‘cause we just don’t have the time / Freedom now.”
The anthemic single “Swedish Guns” follows. Backed by a mesmerizing beat, the song icily examines gun violence and the government’s complacence: “Who can be to blame for Swedish guns? / A clue, it’s in the name / a diabolic shame.”
Political criticism runs rampant on Running Out of Love, as does more personal betrayal. The darkly hypnotic “Occupied,” released last year on a three-track EP of the same name, marks the album’s midpoint, harboring a key legal conflict with label Labrador that transpired during the six-year gap since their 2010 release. Dismal yet melodic, the song samples Twin Peaks with haunting, yet revealing effect: “It’s a shame / how some people claim / to be one thing or another….You were taken hostage with no war in sight / robbed of youth and freedom / But when you signed on the dotted line / you had no idea.”
While the album’s predominant tone is one of unflinching confrontation, “Can’t Be Guilty” is a point of vulnerability, relying on traditional metaphors of sleeping and death, in almost aching desperation for escape: “You could close your eyes and go to sleep with me / As long as we do, we can’t be guilty.” The source of guilt here is undefined, embodying a general sense of guilt that we ought to carry for the many injustices our graceless humankind condones daily.
Given the album’s tendency toward exposé, it’s tempting to dismiss the fragility of “Can’t Be Guilty,” and its denial of reality, as a fleeting blip. However, “Teach Me to Forget” closes out Running Out of Love with a very different type of plea for liberation than how it begins. In the vein of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the album’s concluding lyrics beg for effacement and delusion: “Please teach me to forget….Don’t hesitate / Just press reset.”
More than halfway into this decade, The Radio Dept. finally deliver a new album, bearing all of the consistency, and delightful trademarks, of previous efforts. In titling it Running Out of Love, the band share their struggle against depletion. The question is, how much perseverance remains? Is pressing reset a last-ditch act of defeat? Or a redemptive attempt at renewal?
Notable Tracks: “Can’t Be Guilty” | “Occupied” | “Swedish Guns”
SEE The Radio Dept. on tour in 2017 | Dates